All of The Above

•April 26, 2009 • Leave a Comment


This weekend stop by blankspace to see some amazing work by SCAD graduate students in the fibers department.

Opening is Friday, May 1; 6:30 pm to 9 pm.

See you there!


Sampler: Blackwork

•April 25, 2009 • 1 Comment

Blackwork is a counted cross-stitch technique executed in black thread on a light background evenweave fabric. Please note, blackwork may not be done with black thread (it can be red, white, or any color). It also can be done on a non- evenweave fabric, and it doesn’t have to be light colored.

Motifs and designs are generally outlined in running stitch (also called Holbein stitch–see below) and filled in with different shading patterns. This is a very old technique, sometimes called “Spanish work,” because of it’s introduction into the English court by Catherine of Aragon, daughter of Spain’s Isabella and Ferdinand. Catherine was sent to England to marry Prince Arthur, who died and she subsequently married his brother Henry the VIII. Suffice to say huge drama ensued, the likes of which makes any Joan Collins’ character appear tame. Affairs were carried out,  bastard children conceived,state religions formed and wives divorced or beheaded. (Catherine gave birth to Mary, and Henry fell in love with her lady-in-waiting, Ann. Neither the Pope nor Catherine would grant Henry an anullment, so Henry formed his own church (the still existing Church of England), anulled his marriage to Catherine, married already pregnant Ann, who gave birth to Elizabeth; then Henry executed Ann so he might marry his next wife, Jane Seymour [not the one who “designs” butt shaped jewelry]).

Throughout all of this hullalabaloo in the early to mid 16th century, one of the favored forms of embroidery was blackwork. Technically difficult, blackwork can be made reversible for use on cuffs, but is not necessary. There exists no actual samples from this time, because the fabrics’ tendency to decompose was further hastened by the corrosive nature of the iron-based dye which gave the thread its distinct color.

We do, however, have record of the patterns preserved in the paintings of Hans Holbein the Younger (1497-1543). Holbein was the court painter to King Henry VIII.  His Jane Seymour portrait from 1537, the pattern is available here.


sleeve detail

sleeve detail

Elizabethan blackwork underwent a resurgence in popularity in the Victorian era. I am on a quest to find contemporary embroiderers who are employing this technique in new ways. I would love to find more.

Maria delValle of Argentina recently produced this piece.


Jocelyn at Pinsneedles in Auckland, New Zealand has this to offer.


Yarn Theory

•April 24, 2009 • Leave a Comment

A new show is opening at the PS122 Gallery (150 First Avenue, New York, NY 10009)

One of our fellow Stitch Spectacular artists, Emily Barletta is part of this show and passed along the information. This might be a little heady and a lot of text for a Friday afternoon, but it was so interesting to me that I decided to re- post the entire press release.

From Martha Lewis, Exhibition Curator:

Yarn Theory highlights the vibrant and deep interrelationship between the sciences, mathematics, crocheting and knitting. From mathematicians looking for clear and visual ways to model their theorem to home-knitters and artists looking to create unique sculptural objects, the world of contemporary yarn work is rife with cross-pollination between the disciplines. The explosion in the popularity of knitting and crochet has yielded an interest in using the medium to go far beyond sweaters, socks, and wearables, moving into the worlds of geometry, biology, natural sciences, pushing the medium’s sculptural boundaries.

Highlighting the work of some of today’s most interesting practitioners, Yarn theory juxtaposes installations and art objects made with a scientific or mathematical basis as a starting point, and with mathematical models and items made explicitly to explain or clarify abstract concepts, which end up being compelling aesthetic forms unto themselves. Because of their incremental structure, the crafted shapes often mimic growth systems found in nature. Such correlations are being explored by today’s needle workers, many of whom are also scientists and mathematicians professionally.

This exhibit contradicts the popular notion- recently made famous by Larry Summers, when he was acting president of Harvard University *- that women are not as good at math and science as men are. Knitting and crocheting -traditionally seen as an appropriate occupation for women and girls- intrinsically requires much calculation to create the expansions and contractions necessary to model a garment from a piece of yarn.

Even in its most traditional or most intuitive, yarn work processes such as colored patterning, lace- making, sweaters, etc. all make ample use of ideas and problems which share common ground within the fields of math and science. Both knit and crochet offer a way to make flexible surfaces, increase and decrease evenly and cleanly, forms which can fold into themselves, become endless loops, or spiral out exponentially.

The internet has provided a unique forum for interacting that has upped the ante in the exploration of the possibilities inherent in transforming a strand of fiber into an object. The level of quality, dialog and experimentation being displayed on-line are exceptional. This exhibit seeks to draw on that richness and to bring some of this profound and exciting world into our own community. Included in Yarn Theory are artists, scientists and practicing mathematicians. The work exhibited here references the worlds of geology, geography, topological mathematics, fractals, geometry, animal behavior testing, probability, human and marine biology, and physics. Yarn Theory seeks to contradict the idea that math and science are boring, un-sensual, and not enjoyable. The exhibit focuses on the connection between the calculated and theoretical, and it’s visual, tangible and tactile incarnation: the knitted and crocheted sculptural object.

AIDS Names Quilt in Savannah

•April 23, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Karin and I stopped by to see the portions of the AIDS memorial quilt at the Bull Street Library in Savannah. I wasn’t prepared for how truly powerful this would be. Here are a few highlights of portions that really struck me.








•April 15, 2009 • 1 Comment

If the beauty of Spring and the return of the morning chorus of birdies is not enough to light the fire of creativity, then get your hands on a copy of this book:

The Art of Embroidery: Inspirational stitches, textures and surfaces , by Francoise Tellier-Loumagne, is true to its claim. The photos are  lovely and the connection between image, texture and stitch is very dynamic. The cover (seriously) does not do  the contents justice. At 300 pages, you will be sure to come back to this wealth of inspiration again and again!

Map Samplers

•April 12, 2009 • 2 Comments

I heart maps.

I heart samplers.

What a great way to join two favorite things. Like alphabet samplers, map samplers were used to educate young women not only in the handy skill of stitchery but to help them learn their geography.

This sampler was executed by Cecilia Lewis in upstate New York in 1909. I found it on the Wisconsin History website. Ms. Lewis, 18 at the time she stitched this, represented the existing states, and labeled the other areas according to the Indian tribes which dominated the land.

cecilia lewis sampler

I had to search pretty extensively to find contemporary map samplers that I really like.

Bettina Matzkuhn is a fiber artist in Canada. She has many beautiful hand-embroidered maps on her website, please check them out.

Territory of Blah

Territory of Blah

Territory of Blah detail

Territory of Blah detail

Adjectival Coast

Adjectival Coast

Adjectival Coast detail

Adjectival Coast detail

Melinda Barta is another embroidery artist working with maps and samplers. She will be teaching an embroidered map class this summer at Penland School of Crafts. I had better pictures, but my computer died and took all of my files with it.

Melinda Barta

Melinda Barta



Sarah Horton AKA Totally Severe

•April 11, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Napoleon’s Little Pony

I first noticed Sarah Horton’s work as one of the artists in Gallery Hanahou’s February embroidery show: Forget Me-Not.

All of her fabulous embroidery and graphic design work can be see on her blog and website: Totally Severe.

Lucky In Love

Working with a single stitch, this is a wonderful example of painting with the thread. . . and things don’t need to be complicated to be beautiful or interesting.